These gardens are not only a source of fresh food for community members, but also an income-generating activity with the surplus food being sold for a profit. Using the gardens as a tool, community members are able to apply the health, nutrition, and human rights knowledge they gained during the CEP to improve local food security.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the four pillars of food security are food availability, ease of access, proper utilization, and long-term stability. The information and skills presented to community members during the CEP as well as the local development activities led by Community Management Committees (CMCs) allow communities to address each of these pillars and work together to ensure food doesn’t become a source of worry.
The availability of food in a community depends on their distance from markets, seasonal crop selection, and efficient distribution. Some of the 39 communities who participated in the program in Guinea-Bissau are themselves market towns, while others must walk half a day to get to a weekly market, known in Guinea-Bissau as a lumo. The ability to grow some of their own food locally in the CMC-managed gardens allows the community to reduce its dependence on these markets, with more options available at home. Growing local vegetables also eliminates the risk of food spoiling or becoming damaged during transport from far away towns.
Access to food is defined in terms of a family’s ability to afford locally available food along with their own internal decision-making abilities – choosing to allocate limited resources to buy quality food and to distribute it equitably among family members. The human rights and health lessons facilitated in the CEP come into play to support positive decision-making as it relates to food security. Every man, woman, and child has a fundamental right to be healthy, and participants learn the important role nutrition plays in long-term health. With this information, residents of participating villages are better able to decide how to use their often limited resources for everyone in their care’s overall wellbeing.
The concept of food utilization pertains to how well a person’s body is able to make use of food eaten. A key focus of the Kobi module in the CEP is how hygiene can improve community health. Participants learn how germs are spread and that not washing your hands before eating or preparing food can contaminate your meal. Lessons on nutrition also teach participants the value of a diverse diet rich in vitamins and minerals, helping them get the most out of what they choose to consume.
The benefits of a healthy diet are best achieved when it is sustained over a long period of time, and so food availability, access for each member of the family, and healthy utilization of food needs to be stable for families to be secure. Traditionally, communities in Guinea-Bissau grow food seasonally, choosing crops which thrive best during different seasons to ensure year-round availability. The community gardens function the same way, utilizing growing seasons. The local gardens also reduce the communities’ vulnerability to sudden spikes in the price of food. The economy of Guinea-Bissau is often unpredictable due to an overreliance on a few key exports, so changes in the global market prices are felt heavily at local levels. With an investment in locally grown food, communities are better prepared for times of uncertainty.
Food security is essential to fulfilling the right of every individual to a full, healthy life. For many families, especially those with limited economic means, putting food on the table, or in the communal bowl, each night is a challenge. These 39 partner communities in Guinea-Bissau are creating solutions to this challenge by improving the food security of their communities.